Universal EdChoice scholarship bill introduced in Ohio Senate

(The Center Square) – A new bill in the Ohio General Assembly would make all Ohio students eligible for the state’s EdChoice Scholarship program and significantly grow the state’s homeschool tax credit.

Opponents call the plan unconstitutional and believe a current lawsuit will end what they call private school vouchers in Ohio.

Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Ashtabula, introduced the Parent Education Freedom Act in the session that recently began. She said the newly expanded EdChoice Scholarship would give $5,500 for students in K-8 and $7,500 in grades 9-12 to be used in any public, community or chartered non-public school in Ohio.

“Now more than ever, parents understand the importance of having options when it comes to their children’s education. The Parent Educational Freedom Act empowers our parents, encourages healthy competition and makes Ohio an even better state to raise a family,” O’Brien said. “Every parent has the right to choose a school that best meets their student’s needs, and I look forward to this bill allowing Ohio’s parents to make those choices.”

Vouchers Hurt Ohio, a coalition of individuals and more than 100 of the state’s 615 school districts, said in an email public schools are being targeted.

“This is an onslaught. Public schools are the target. The pro-private voucher crowd wants two distinct systems of education in Ohio: one for the haves and one for the have nots. Notice there is no longer any pretense about saving poor students from failing schools because that myth has been busted,” the email said.

In December, Franklin County Judge Jaize Page allowed a lawsuit challenging the EdChoice program to move forward. The lawsuit to stop the program was filed on behalf of five school districts and students Malcom McPherson and Fergus Connelly, through their parents, along with the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

The group said the program is siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools.

The lawsuit named the state of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Education, the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens as defendants.

A similar bill introduced in the last session received its first hearing nearly a year ago, as previously reported by The Center Square. It failed to pass.

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